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  • Shanti Swaroopini 1
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Deception as Identity correspondent visits the solo show of sculptures by Shanti Swaroopini hosted by the Threshold Gallery, New Delhi, and discusses the notion of deception used by the artist in her works.

For the Classical and Renaissance period artists, a perfect human body was the way to represent the ideal, platonic and the godly. The idealized human figures sublimated the mundane through the aesthetic mediation. The idea of bodily perfection in this way came to be associated with the classical period sculptures and paintings. For those artists, perfecting the body was a strategy of deception. Through this perfection, they could deceive the immediacy of the socio-cultural moralities of the time, including the ones that persecuted the sexual deviancies and transgressions.

Shanti Swaroopini, a noted sculptor also uses the same strategy of deception through bodily perfection in her new repertoire of sculptures. These sculptures presented at the Alliance Francaise, New Delhi, at the aegis of the Threshold Gallery, allure and dispel the viewers with their physical perfection. Here is a celebration of oman’s body (one should say a perfect, idealized and desired woman’s body) in various positions. She is existential, celebratory, narcissistic, dominating and submissive at the same time.

The artist in her prologue says that she plays out her identity through a strategy of deception. It is not her body. It is the body of the desired/desirable woman. She subverts the feminist logic of rejecting the perfect/ed body for the universal gaze and consumption. The artist adopts a tactics of playing with the hegemony, which makes the woman a consumable object. The strategy of deception distances the artist/artist’s body from the body of works that she generates.

Deception has always been a technique right from the origin of human beings. Deception is militaristic and amorous at the same time. In deception, one could see the aggression in accommodative forms and love in aggressive forms. This mutual encroachment of qualities imparts a sense of drama and intrigue to the manifested forms/actions. This is what we experience in the bronze sculptures of Shanti Swaroopini. However, her passive acceptance of this strategy of deception generates certain doubts amongst the viewers.

These sculptures are slender and inviting. One would love to run his eyes through the contours of her body. Had they been alive, he would have never hesitated to take them to bed, despite their diminutive physique for they are perfect. This arousal of Eros is supplemented by the submissiveness of their postures. They are all nature. They are not about culture and to make this point underlined, most of these female images are draped in creepers as if they were a part of ‘nature’.

The fault line lies in this unquestioning approach of the artist. Despite her claim on deception as a strategy, when this work is read out of the exhibition context, it becomes a pure commodity, submissive to all kinds of gaze. In Shanti Swaroopini’s works, unfortunately, deception is manifested, not as a strategy but as the very nature of the perfect bodies, asserting the age old belief that ‘women are deceptive’. Certain images look like anorexic versions of the works of Navjot Altaf and Gogi Saroj Pal. Notwithstanding that allegation, I would say that Shanti Swaroopini has done her works sincerely though the catalogue writing does not place her anywhere and projects her to the trajectory of Mars.


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